Boko Haram storms prison, police station

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Suspected Boko Haram gunmen have attacked a prison, police station and local government office in Konduga, forty kilometres from Maiduguri, northeastern Nigeria, wounding at least three police officers, officials and residents said Wednesday.

“The (police) station was set ablaze,” police spokesman Samuel Tizhe told AFP of the attack in Konduga on Tuesday night. “They attacked the secretariat and prison … They started with firing, then they put explosives.”

Residents said they suspected the attackers were members of Islamist group Boko Haram, though Tizhe declined to comment on who the suspects were.

The spokesman said at least three policemen were wounded but no deaths had been reported. He could not say whether any prisoners had fled during the attack.

Konduga is some 40 kilometres (25 miles) from Maiduguri, which has served as the base of Boko Haram, blamed for scores of attacks that have killed hundreds, mainly in Nigeria’s north.

While Maiduguri has been repeatedly hit by violence, Tuesday night’s incidents marked the first major attack in Konduga.

Residents said gunmen stormed the town on Tuesday evening, shooting and bombing the police station and local government headquarters. One resident said a church was also attacked, but police had not confirmed the information.

Hundreds of people fled the violence, though calm had returned on Wednesday morning. The extent of the damage was not immediately clear.

“We had just finished our evening prayers when explosions and shootings erupted which set the divisional police station, the local government secretariat and a church on fire,” one fleeing resident told AFP by telephone.

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Another fleeing resident said “the bombing and the shooting were horrifying and forced us to abandon our homes”.

“Up to 300 hundred people moved out to neighbouring Uturu and Mantamari villages,” he said.

Boko Haram has been blamed for increasingly deadly and sophisticated attacks in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation and largest oil producer.

It claimed responsibility for the August suicide bombing of UN headquarters in the capital Abuja which killed at least 25 people, while its deadliest attack yet occurred on January 20 in Kano, Nigeria’s second-largest city.

The Kano attack saw coordinated bombings and shootings that left at least 185 people dead.

Violence blamed on the sect, whose goals remain largely unclear, has since 2009 claimed more than 1,000 lives, including more than 300 this year alone, according to figures tallied by AFP and rights groups.

There has been deep concern over whether Boko Haram has formed links with outside extremist groups, including Al-Qaeda’s north African branch.

Diplomats say that while it appears some Boko Haram members have been receiving training abroad, there has been no evidence of operational ties with foreign groups.

Nigeria’s 160 million population is roughly divided between a mainly Muslim north and predominately Christian south.